The Art of
Matthew A. McLellan

Civil RIghts

  • Acrylic on MDF
  • Representational, Sculptural
  • 76 3/4 w x 14 3/4 h
  • 2004


It’s When (a homage to our civil rights)

Anyone can sit anywhere on the bus,
eat at the same places,
sit on the same benches,
work in the same trenches.
It’s when she marries him and it’s legal by law,
beautiful children of caramel tone
laughing and learning together as they should.
Things are better knock on wood.
It’s when the aged oak hangs no more the lynched man in
the cotton field for everyone to see.
It’s when the white sheeted men have faded away,
gone to our history and pages of gray.
It’s when the crosses don’t burn in the night in the yard,
it’s easier now but still often hard.
It’s when we sweat under the same sun,
sleep under the same moon,
breathe in the same air,
it’s getting to be,
just and fair.
It’s when I help you and you help me
together we build strong things that are free.
It’s when the children play under rainbow hues in open wide fields,
not even knowing the path things took,
crooked and long through the deepest of woods
to that opening of light at the forests edge
where the rain is ending and the sun now shines.
The colored arc curves its beauty to those here and now and to all that came before.
It’s when these things happen that Martin Luther Kings’ life still matters, and the lives of Coretta and all the kings and Rosa Parks and Jackie Robinson and the Freedom Riders and Abraham Lincoln and Medgar Evers and Marian Anderson and Emmit Till and The 54th Regiment and Mahatma Ghandi and James Baldwin and Marlon Brando and Nelson Mandela and Harriet Beecher Stowe and Paul Robeson and Larry Doby and John Lennon and Lyndon Baines Johnson and Governor Wallace who realized he was wrong and Nat King Cole and Robert Kennedy and the 4 girls of the 16th Street Baptist Church and James Forman and Malcolm X and the marchers of Selma who took rocks to the head and the boycotters of Montgomery and Chloe and Alex Haley and Ella Baker and the open-minded ones and Danny Lyon and Taylor Washington and the daring teacher and Bob Dylan and Wyette Walker and Charles Sherod and Booker T Washington and the people that came and listened and changed their ways and Thurgood Marshall and Jesse Jackson and the cotton picker who’s family was taken and Lynda Bryant Hall and Cassius Clay and Muhammad Ali and the scared children that got brave and Fred Hampton and Ralph Abernathy and Brenda Harris and Harriet Tubman and Ronald Satchel and those saddened wonderful souls from Africa that were stolen away and John Lewis and the people at the lunch counter that didn’t move and Harry Belafonte and all the glorious bygone martyrs and …